Excavating All Saints: a medieval church rediscovered

Excavating All Saints: a medieval church rediscovered

Lauren McIntyre

Current Archaeology, Issue 245, August (2010)


Routine rescue excavations on the small plot of land at the junction of Kent Street and Fawcett Street in York were started in 2007, in advance of a major new redevel- opment project. The site had pre- viously been a cattle market, and then a massive leisure centre; it was known there were burials and foundations there, most probably associ- ated with a Medieval church that had since dis- appeared. So archaeologists were not surprised when they encountered burials; however, when mysterious mass graves began appearing, the site suddenly got a lot more interesting.

In 1644, York was besieged for the first time in its long history, during the English Civil War. York was a Royalist stronghold; so, from April to July 1644, the city was under siege by Oliver Cromwell and his Parliamentary army. It was only with the Battle of Marston Moor on 2 July that the Parliamentarians were finally successful. By the end of July, the siege was over and York had been taken from the Royalists. Historical records note that, ironically, those who suffered most in the siege were the Parlia- mentary forces outside the city, rather than the well-provisioned Royalists within. The besieging forces were under-supplied and suffered severe hardship; soldiers are more prone to disease as a result of poor living conditions and high levels of physical activity. Fatal disease is documented as occurring frequently in siege armies and many soldiers would have died outside the walls of York. Where could the bodies be buried?

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